The fight for LGBTQ rights continues in India.
India saw a major change in its law and culture this year. The country’s Supreme Court decided that the colonial era Section 377 in the penal code was unconstitutional. This thus legalized gay sex in the Asian country.
But just legalizing gay sex, and thus openly gay people/relationships, doesn’t give them any protections from anti-gay laws. This is a fact that has just been proven.
According to the Tribune, India’s lawmakers in the Lok Sabha passed a bill banning gay couples from becoming parents through surrogacy.
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 was passed earlier this week. The bill makes it so that only infertile couples who have been married for five years or more can seek surrogacy. As same-sex marriage is not legal in India, gay couples are out of luck. In addition, anyone who is found to violate this law will receive a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh (approximately $14,277).
The bill was drafted in 2016 by a group of Ministers run by Sushama Swaraj, the Minister of External Affairs.
“Surrogacy cannot be a fashion, hobby or a pleasure for actors who don’t want their wives to undergo labour or who already have biological children,
said Swaraj. "Surrogacy must have a purpose. This Bill is in line with the Indian ethos.”
It was then Health Minister JP Nadda who introduced this bill to the lower parliamentary house, and Lok Sabha lawmakers debated for an hour before passing it.
The bill is set to discourage surrogacy and ensure that adoption is the choice for childless couples. India’s government says that there are about 20 million orphans and abandoned children in the country. Swaraj’s argument is that the bill was created with them in mind.
That said, many are critiquing the bill for excluding same-sex couples and single women.
“The focus on heteronormative couples discriminates against single people, same-sex couples. This, in spite of the recent Supreme Court judgement,” said global health and bioethics researcher Anant Bhan to News 18.
Queer India writer Harish Iyer also added:
“If the sole intention had been protecting the rights of surrogate mothers and to steer against making wombs-on-rent a norm, there would have been a plan to rehabilitate and integrate surrogate moms into our societal framework.
“There is no plan whatsoever in this direction. Instead, we get a bill that almost brings surrogacy to a standstill.
“If surrogacy is out of bounds for queer persons, has the government strengthened its policy for adoption by queer persons? The answer is a loud ‘no’. There are enough studies in the West that prove that queer persons make good parents, not as good as but better than heterosexual persons.”
h/t: Tribune, News 18, GayTimes